A brutally honest review of BTS’s new album, ‘Map of the Soul: 7’

Courtesy of BigHit Entertainment

Courtesy of BigHit Entertainment

Faith Mccurdy, Design Editor

I don’t like this album. Look, I’m not a ‘hater’ of BTS, I actually really like BTS. I’ve been a massive fan of them since 2016, and I still continue to support the members. That being said, I was thrilled to hear that they were releasing a full length album, especially since the last one they released was in 2018. I was also excited for it to be a continuation of Map of the Soul because of how much I enjoyed their teaser EP, Persona. A few of the songs from last year’s EP are also included on Map of the Soul: 7. (For reviewing purposes, songs featured on the teaser EP are under ‘previous songs,’ and songs that are strictly on the new album are under ‘new songs.’) However, my excitement was heavily let down when BTS finally released their album. Considering they took an entire year to release 14 new songs when in the past they would release 20 every 6 months, I had very high expectations. I knew they went on a world tour during this time and even took a month of complete break, which was well deserved; I believed this would better influence their music. But that wasn’t the case. I am still incredibly proud of BTS and will continue to support them through promotions and through upcoming concerts and albums, I was just extremely disappointed with this specific album. In this, I will be reviewing each individual song from Map of the Soul: 7, and explaining why I didn’t like it.

 

Previous songs:

“Intro : Persona”

I love the rock vibes. It’s the first song I heard from this album. I think the use of text in the MV (music video) was really cool and creative. It gave ARMY (BTS’s fanbase) a lot to connect to. I think the RM’s diction (the leader of BTS) is really nice and it suited this song extremely well. The mix between pronouncing things intensely and putting different emphasis on syllables adds to the song. RM was definitely the right person to rap this song. The instrumentals to it, I found, were annoying at first with the high pitched electronic voice, but I think it contrasts nicely to the darker bass tones in the song. And with the instrumentals changing beat and rhythm, the verses and chorus all seem a lot more separated, and you can tell they’re different entities while still being a part of the same song. BTS hasn’t experimented much with ‘rock’ style music in a while and this song reminded me a lot of their earlier song “Danger,” and the aesthetic of it contrasted well with their pop music feel. I know when this song came out last year, it got a lot of attention at first, but it was quickly looked over while other songs were amplified. With that, I think the addition of this song on 7 was a strong choice because it gives this song a new light to get the attention that I think it deserves. 

 

“Boy With Luv” (Feat. Halsey)

I think this song has one of the most beautiful MVs of 2019. The use of color made the song really stand out, because everytime I see the bright pinks and blues I think of this song. This is a really great marketing strategy and makes it easy to reference the song. At first, I didn’t really like this song. I thought the pop vibe they were going with was a little to pushed and they could have pulled back on it. Now having listened to it for a year, I have come to really enjoy the beat of the song, and I think it’s better described as being really bubbly. The intro to the song is really easily distinguishable, and that adds to the song. In regards to the music video, I think they did an amazing job with visuals mixed with a strong integration of choreography. I don’t like it when music videos have too much choreography because that’s the point of a choreography video or a live performance video. That’s why I really like K-pop videos – they put more emphasis on aesthetics compared to most american artists, and I also need some choreography in the video because it can get boring if the entire video is just full of b-rolls. And I think this video does an amazing job on integrating the two aspects together. I don’t love Halsey in the song personally, but I do like the integration of a different voice, it really helps separate the chorus from the verses which sometimes can meld together too much, but I think the same effect could have been achieved without Halsey. 

 

“Make It Right”

I don’t like this song. I think it’s a very average song, and from a group as big as BTS, it’s hard to feel satisfied with anything less than excellence. I think the instrumentals are overdone by a lot of K-pop groups at this point. Many groups use the popularity of electro-instrumentals as an excuse to not write a chorus, and while I don’t think BTS truly used it as an excuse, I don’t think it heightened their song or enhanced it in any way. It sounds as if any other group could have come out with this song and it would have been somewhat successful, but BTS could much better. The intro makes the song sound better than it actually is, but they repeat the same ad libs to a point where it feels overdone. Lyrically, this song sounds really nice in the verses, and they integrate a nice balance of low pitched singing and falsettos between voices, but the lack of a strong chorus makes the song feel empty. The hook leading into the chorus is nice, but the simple repetition of “I can make it right” made the song fall through.

 

“Jamais Vu”

I like the way this song starts with powerful vocals, whereas many of the other songs start with pretty intense instrumentals. That really separates this song from the others on the album as it heavily relies on the vocal line and J-Hope’s rap to carry the song. The small amount of instrumentals builds overtime in a way that feels pretty natural, except for when the second rap starts. But, the addition of bass fades and then quickly starts again in the chorus which elevates the delicacy of Jin’s voice in the second chorus. While the lyrics are pretty repetitive, it’s done well here and you can clearly hear a steady hook. Even with the repetition, the entire song doesn’t sound the same as they integrate the different voices from the vocal line well and their different intonations play off each other really well to create a slightly more upbeat ballad. 

“Dionysus”

I used to love this song; it was actually my top song of 2019. The way that this song contrasted with the rest of last year’s teaser EP made “Dionysus” stand out, and if the rest of the EP would have fit in a similar hip-hop style, I don’t think this song would have been as good. While I loved this song all throughout last year, I think it comes across as really cheap to put it in the album this year. Yes, this song did successfully, but I feel like they’re trying to draw out how liked this song was by fans. “Dionysus” was very heavily promoted alongside the title track, “Boy With Luv,”. In this new album they should have decided to either add “Boy With Luv” or “Dionysus,” but not both. This song was really strong and held a powerful performance for Map of the Soul: Persona, but the choice of including 7 was unneeded. A song this successful should have not been included because it overcrowds the rest of the songs (because you can’t listen to a new rock song next to this one) so it leaves no room for new songs to shine through in the overall scheme of the album.

 

New songs:

“Interlude : Shadow”

For this song, I’m judging them off of their 3 minute music video and the 4 minute song on Spotify. I really liked the visuals from the music video; the art and illustrations in the video added to the overall tone of the song. It didn’t feel cheesy for the most part, but certain parts felt like they have been done a lot. When the camera does a single shot zooming in and out on Suga’s face, it reminded me of the intro to “DNA” and I don’t think that suited this song very well. I also didn’t like how the beat changed halfway through the song. It felt very rushed and came across like Suga had two different ideas for this song and tried to meld them together, but it didn’t work. I was initially really excited to have Suga doing the interlude but after hearing it, I wasn’t as pleased as I thought I would be. Most of his solo songs recently have been very experimental, but this is very reminiscent of his earlier music. As much as I thought I wanted something more like his solo album, I don’t think it was really suitable for an intro song. I do, however, think Suga is the only person in BTS who can pull off songs in this style of hip- hop rap, and his rapping talents really shine through. It just didn’t go very well with the album and doesn’t serve as an introduction to the album in a way I think it should. 

 

“Black Swan”

I genuinely love this song so much. When I first saw the art film with this song, I didn’t really like it. I think the dancing distracted from the song and made it difficult to get a good feel with it. But, after seeing the dance performance by BTS of “Black Swan,” it completely changed for me. The dance does an amazing job of highlighting the instrumentals. It’s like nothing BTS has ever done before; in fact, it centers Jimin a lot because it includes his commentary in the background (which was a very strong choice). However, I don’t particularly like Suga’s rap in this song and I think it was a bad choice to start out with it as the first verse. It sounds very auto-tuned and is really distracting from the very flowy song. Despite that, I think this song may be one of my favorites from this entire album and I wish it would have been the title track. I look forward to seeing if BTS will continue to make songs reminiscent of this style in the future. 

 

“Filter”

I don’t know why, but the intro instrumentals remind me of “Senorita” by Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello, and I don’t like it. A lot of K-pop artists experimented with adding Latin-inspired instrumentals to their music in 2018, and BTS was no exception. I really think Jimin’s voice suits the overall style of these songs; however, this has already been done by many different groups and it highly reflects the guitar patterns in Senorita. It sounds a little overdone and almost cheesy in a way. Having Jimin be the only artist on this song was a good choice, as his melodic falsetto notes contrast the deeper guitar part nicely, but overall I wish there would have been more to the song. The ending feels very abrupt and the song, while being 3 minutes long, feels a lot shorter because of this. Jimin’s vocals are the only thing carrying this song, and because of this, I don’t think the song particularly stands out in the album as a whole.

 

“My Time”

I hate the beginning of this song. I don’t think it stands out in any way, and Jungkook’s voice sounds like it’s trying to keep up with the instrumentals, rather than staying on rhythm. But when the beat drops 38 seconds in, it completely changes for the better. The parts where Jungkook speeds up sounds like he’s leading the instrumentals. Not that he’s going too fast, but that he’s in control of them and knows when each syllable should come in. The ad libs added in the background really help to differentiate between the verses and chorus. They act as a barrier, which really benefits the song as the instrumental doesn’t really add anything to change between stanzas. I wish there would have been more diversity in the instrumental because it does all blend together and relies too much on the vocals to add that separation. Besides that, I think this song encompasses a really rich tone that Jungkook’s voice really enhances, making this one of my favorite solo songs on this album.

 

“Louder than bombs”

Now this is how you start a song. Having the deep bass movements at the beginning leaves the listeners feeling intrigued at where the rest of the song will go, but then having the high falsetto notes overlay the deeper tones really hooks you in. This is probably my favorite BTS song, maybe ever. The balance between polished vocals in such a high range and the vibrant yet powerful instrumentals leaves neither of them having to carry the other for this song to be successful. If either of them were alone, it wouldn’t have had the same effect. Both the instrumentals and the vocals are fairly bland on their own, but with the combination of the two, the song feels almost a hundred times more interesting. I’ve seen similar techniques done by artists such as Lorde and Frank Ocean, and I think BTS pulled it off seamlessly. The push and pull of the instrumentals separates the stanzas into distinctly different entities, but still has a liquid flow to it, bringing it all together. And the ending where the instrumentals fade out and you’re left with the single sustained note gives me chills. Sometimes this technique can feel overdone or cheesy, but this was executed stunningly. The only criticism I have for this song is that the beginning of Suga’s part in the bridge could be separated a little more, but even then, this song is beautifully done and I wish it could have a performance with it like “Black Swan” did. 

 

“ON”

I actually really don’t like this song. I think it suits the overall album all right, but I don’t think it deserves to be the title track. The instrumentals with the random noises at the beginning sound very forced and didn’t integrate well throughout the song. The vocals at the beginning and in the verses were vivid, but they didn’t suit the instrumentals for these parts. It felt very harsh, like it was trying to force sound into what should have been more of an empty space. Title tracks are supposed to encompass the overall vibe of the album and are most successful when they’re catchy, but I feel like “ON” does neither of these. I do quite like how the electronic instrumental faded at the beginning of the bridge, but I don’t think the vocals during the bridge complemented this at all. During the parts in which the vocals were better, the instrumentals felt very discordant, but when the instrumentals pulled back to allow for the vocals to shine, the instead fell through, sounding too jagged and forceful. A good song should complement itself between vocals and instrumentals, but with this song, it felt as if both were trying to fight to be heard when they were already being heard far too much. I will say, the dance to this song is very robust and distinct which is very beneficial to the popularity of a song, and Junkook’s live vocals for the bridge are spectacular and very impressive. To say the least, I was genuinely very disappointed in this song and I know BTS could have done so much better.

 

“UGH!”

This song reminds me so much of BTS’s earlier cyphers and of the song “HANGSANG” in J-hope’s solo album Hope World. I really like this style of rap, and the rap line of BTS suits the nature of this really well. I do think the chorus falls though, and I wish they would have left a chorus out almost completely. Not many artists have done this before, but I think with the innovators of music that BTS are, they could have done it very successfully. The addition of the instrumentals at the end for what I assume to be a dance break worked really well with this song and I think it highlights the complexity of the beat which is generally overlooked throughout the song because of the intensity of the different rappers. I think this song is a nice addition to the album because of its placement within the album. If the song would have come earlier, it would have been too heavy, but coming directly after “ON” helps give certain context to this song that I think is necessary to make it successful and worth adding to the album. If it would have been placed anywhere else, I think this song would have been more successful by itself, similar to how “Ddaeng” wasn’t part of Map of the Soul: Persona last year.

 

“00:00 (Zero O’Clock)”

Making this song vocalists only and not having any of the rappers in it was one of the best decisions for this song. The melodic vibes really suit the more concise instrumentals. Many of the songs on this album feel as if they’re trying to push for something, but this song juxtaposes that really well as it almost pulls back in a way. It feels like we’re not hearing everything that there is about this song, and pairing that with the more extravagant songs on this album makes it extremely enjoyable and mellifluous. Since the song pulls back a lot more with the instrumentals and falsetto notes, the technique within the vocals really has a chance to shine through coherently. The vocalists aren’t fighting to be heard over any over the top background or over each other. Each member is able to present themselves effortlessly giving the song a very ethereal, yet sturdy, vibe. I especially like Jin’s part in this song, and I wish it featured more of his voice, but overall the blend between all four vocalists was implemented very well. Many of the songs in 7 rely on exaggerated falsetto notes, but this song sounds very natural and falsettos are mainly used as a hook or for harmonies which differentiates the song even more for the rest of the album.

 

“Inner Child”

The slow start to this song really suits V’s voice, but I wish he would have started on a lower note to not only display his wide range. Thus would have also complemented the sunny instrumental. Not to mention, many songs in this album feature heavy falsetto notes that make up the majority of the vocals, so it only pushes that rather than standing out from it. While I do wish V expressed more of his range within this song, all his previous solo songs only featured his deeper more husky range, so it’s refreshing to see V trying new techniques with his own voice- it just would have been more successful on a different album. In the future, I hope to see a song that can blend his entire range successfully and smoothly. Lyrically, I think the song is really well made, except for the repetition of “we gon’ change.” I’m already not a huge fan of intense repetition in general, but I think this song takes it to another level of cheesy-sounding repetition. It feels like when it’s repeated 4 times in the chorus that it’s just being said to fill space. I would much rather have a more developed chorus or at least have the instrumental shine through there because the repetition just feels so overdone, and it really exhausts the song. I can see why having it repeat would be beneficial because it makes the song more catchy, and it can give the fans more to latch onto if the song is performed live, but besides that, I don’t think it added anything to the song.

 

“Friends”

This song starts off sounding so playful. Not only does it encompass a more jubilant tone, it also sounds very sugary. The way that this song exhibits the emotions of the lyrics through the physical melodies themselves and through the instrumentals is really compelling. A lot of songs have lyrical meaning and can have a good background track that can actually sound pretty good, but may not display the lyrics or the overall tone of a song too well – this is not one of those songs. You can feel the lighthearted nature that the lyrics are physically saying but through sound, which is what I think elevates a song from good to great. This technique is mostly done with songs of this nature, more bright and bubbly songs, but that doesn’t make it any less successful for this song. The rap for this song is very exuberant and throughout most of the songs on this album, the rap feels very heavy and dense, so it’s nice to have the contrast to show the range that the rappers have. 

 

“Moon”

Jin’s solo songs never disappoint, and this just reiterates that point. I feel like Jin’s vocals and nasally lower range really suits this song. His vocals definitely lead the song though, as I was extremely disappointed in the instrumentals. It felt like the strong electric treble overpowered Jin’s vocals, making it difficult for this song to truly highlight Jin’s talent. I think the bridge does a better job of tuning down on the instrumentals, but the repetition of “hey” makes it sound extremely cheesy to me. The intro and the outro of this song sound completely different from the entirety of the song and I wish the middle section would have better encompassed these parts because it would have been a better song. I was really interested to see Jin singing this song because, in his previous solo songs, Jin always relied on strong high notes in a ballad style song, so it was really interesting to see him try something different. This song definitely highlighted a completely different aspect to his vocal range and I can really appreciate the technique that is needed for him to pull off such a variety of songs, I just wish the instrumental didn’t push so heavily towards an electronic pop vibe because it definitely hindered his strong performance. 

 

“Respect”

In strong contrast to the previous song, this one is amazing in the instrumentals. I think it’s very difficult to use strong electronics in songs without it sounding like intense pop music, but this song does that very nicely. The deep tones that appear 10 seconds in contrast nicely with the mini monologue brought in from the very beginning of  “should I go or should I stay”. I think it’s really interesting how this song juxtaposes the lower toned instrumental to higher pitched instrumentals, because usually they’ll rely on contrasting the instrumental and the vocals. I also love the slight 90’s rap theme throughout this song. It’s not completely reminiscent of rap or pop music from the 90’s, but you can definitely feel the fusion of that with a lot of songs RM and Suga produce themselves. They integrated their own style into this song and it reminds me of why I really started liking BTS in the first place. This song also plays really nicely with “Intro: Persona” so I think it was a really strong decision to put both of these songs on different ends of the album. I wish this would have been the outro song for this reason, but also because it perfectly encompasses an ‘ending’. It feels very reflective because of the vocals and casual banter that they include at the end of the song, and it would have been an extremely powerful way to gracefully end the album.

 

“We are Bulletproof : the Eternal”

I was really surprised by this song when I first heard it. Because of their original “We are Bulletproof,” I was expecting it to have a similar style to that song and be really upbeat and more rap-based. It made sense why this song wouldn’t be that way when you look at the lyrics and the meaning behind this song and it leads to a very pleasant surprise. I love the opening with Jungkook’s vocals and then leading that into V’s harmonies. Throughout this song you can really see a lot of layering with the vocals of different singers, which is really refreshing as, a lot of the time, it feels like the ad libs are so separated, but in this you can hear how well they all pair together and yet are so distinct. I feel like that plays really well then with the lyrical themes of this song as they are all together yet so distinct within themselves and it’s really interesting to see how the small technicalities of harmonies can display a general theme and concept so well. In the beginning of the song, it starts out really slow and builds with the raps and with the chorus but then fades really quickly into strings and Jimin and Jungkook’s vocals and it brings a really nice closing to the song making resonate in a more nostalgic way, further implying the meaning of the song.

 

“Outro : Ego”

I don’t like this song. I feel bad, for some reason, but I really, really don’t like this song. It sounds very electronic and even if it didn’t use heavy amounts of autotune throughout the entire song, it does in parts and it’s so obvious that it sounds very cheesy. I do really like the repetition of “ready, set, and begin” and the trumpets in the song sound really punchy. Since J-Hope is the main dancer, it makes sense to have a more repetitive chorus and have heavy instrumental. If this song were to be performed live, it would probably have an amazing dance to the chorus. I just don’t think the vibes of this song really suit what Map of the Soul: 7 is about and so I don’t think it should really be on this album, let alone be the outro. It is set very much in J-Hope’s style and I can see the similarities it has to many songs on J-Hope’s solo album Hope World but I think this song would have been more successful on that album itself or at least not places as the outro to this album. 

 

“ON” (Feat. Sia)

If you take everything I said about “ON” previously, this is exactly like that, but worse. I already wasn’t too fond of this song so having it again doesn’t really ‘tickle my fancy.’ Since this song is the title track but with Sia added, you already have practically 2 of the exact same song, but then you add last years title track, “Boy With Luv,” so you have a total of 3 title tracks in one album. Not to mention, “Boy With Luv” already features western pop artist Halsey, so now they have 2 songs that just feature what seems like random female artists. Sia also didn’t add anything to the song. I see why it was more practical to include Halsey in the album but Sia only sang along with the chorus even though without her it already felt really full. I can see the argument of her having a different voice adding to the contrast between her voice and more masculine male vocals, but with Jimin already naturally having the same range that Sia does and having them both sing the chorus, it sounds very clunky and forced. I not only think this additional song adds nothing to the album, but I feel like it genuinely takes away from the album. Since practically the same song is in there twice, it makes the original version seem less special, and makes the album even more repetitive than it already was. With an album having 20 songs where 5 of them were already released a year ago, having another repeat of a song leaves only 14 new or unique songs on this album. I would have much rather had BTS release a new album of only 14-16 songs with only a few repeats, rather than having an album with a bunch of what sounds like fluff.